It was 1988, and I took a job as field representative for U.S. Sen. Wyche Fowler. My territory was all of North Georgia, and we moved to Gainesville.
One morning, I got a phone call that the scheduled speaker at that day’s Gainesville Kiwanis Club meeting was unable to make it. I was asked if I might be a last-minute stand-in. This was the day I met Ted Oglesby.
Ted was a Republican when Republican wasn’t cool. This was a day and time when the two best-known Republicans in Gainesville were Ted Oglesby and Gordon Sawyer.
I had about an hour to cobble a few notes together. I told the Kiwanians I was here to help people with problems with the federal government, such as Social Security or the Veterans Administration. I told them Sen. Fowler was committed to serving the public. I then asked if there were any questions.
The first question was from Ted, who I had never met. He started a barrage of questions from some folks in the club who clearly didn’t like the senator. I felt like I had been taken before a firing squad.
Ted and I began an acquaintance that evolved into a friendship. Ted was old school and decent enough to shake my hand after my Kiwanis club melee.
For the next several years, Ted would greet me by saying, “How’s my favorite liberal?”
That wasn’t so bad. Another “friend” called me a communist for several years.
Later, I worked with Ted on election nights at WDUN. He had his formulas for predicting the outcome of local elections. He looked at the results from select precincts, usually the West Whelchel precinct, and announces his projections. His homemade formula was usually right.
Ted’s deep, growling, Southern drawl was unmistakable on the radio. His disdain for many Democrats was unmistakable.
Ted was never one to be gleeful, but the election of Paul Coverdell in the 1992 Senate runoff was enough to offset his disappointment of the defeat of President George H.W. Bush.
Ted’s partisan views on the air were much the way old-time play-by-play sports broadcasters favored the home team. He gave the victors their due.
The Georgia General Assembly honored Ted in 2015. One of those who welcomed him to the House of Representatives was Speaker David Ralston, who cut his teeth as a Times reporter during Oglesby’s era at the newspaper. It was a great moment for both of them.
We enjoyed talking about South Georgia, where he was born 84 years ago. He knew of the struggles of farmers and of small towns.
If Ted was passionate about anything, he gave it his all. He led groups of retirees on travels to various destinations and was a faithful member of Lakewood Baptist Church.
Ted called me many months back to tell me about his published memoir. We planned to get together and talk about it.
A few weeks ago, I received a call that his health was in decline. He was not expected to live long. In true Ted Oglesby fashion, he pushed on longer than many predicted.
Like me, Ted was a Gainesvillian by choice, but his devotion to our community was a strong as any native.
Every community needs a Ted Oglesby. I’m glad ours was the genuine article.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.